Many countries around the world celebrated World Refugee Day 2023, promoted by the United Nations, with the theme "Hope away from home".
World Refugee Day is celebrated every year on 20 June to enhance “the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution."
In addition, as described by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) this commemoration is "an opportunity to foster understanding and empathy for refugees and displaced persons in view of the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves, and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives".
In this regard, the Catholic Church joined the World Refugee Day with different initiatives. Among others, there were initiatives in the African Continent, in countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and South Africa.
The Episcopal Conference of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST) together with the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travellers (CEPAMI) promoted several activities of human formation, including: a Leadership Training for Refugee Women; training with leaders of Migrant and Refugee communities; a meeting with refugees in the Bairro Popular in Luanda, where positive experiences and challenges of remaining migrants in Angola were shared; CEPAMI participated in a Cultural Exhibition at the Camões Institute in which there was also a fashion show of clothes made by refugee women; and the screening of the film "The swimmers" and a televised Mass celebrated at the Major Seminary of Luanda, presided over by the director of the Migrant and Refugee Communities, Fr Samuel Helena Tumbula.
In addition, more than 200 Catholic refugees attended a Eucharistic celebration in the Diocese of Dundo, province of Lunda Norte, presided over by Fr. Rodrigues Matenda, the parish priest of the centrality of Mussungue and Lóvua. During the Eucharist, the priest thanked the Lord for the gift of unity and solidarity among refugees. And he shared this year’s Holy Father Message with the theme: "Free to choose whether to migrate or stay".
A World Refugee Day meeting was also held in the Maratane refugee camp, in northern Mozambique, Nampula province, with the participation of many refugees and asylum-seekers.
on the occasion of this World Day the director of the Freetown Caritas in Sierra Leone, Fr. Peter A Konteh, launched a call for refugees.
First of all, he called for the recognition of human dignity in each person as Jesus did, also for "raising awareness and promoting understanding" to support aid and assistance efforts because Caritas Freetown, along with other organizations, "is working tirelessly to provide aid and assistance to refugees in need."
The priest then stressed the importance of "defending just and compassionate policies" that protect the rights and dignity of refugees and "fostering a culture of welcome and solidarity".
For their part, members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) met with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) to "share experiences on how to respond to the plight of migrants and on advocacy work".
In an interview, priest Patrick Mphepo explained that refugee policy in South Africa is "complicated in the sense that refugees here in South Africa do not stay in camps as in other countries, here they are integrated into society and the system itself, it is a bit complex in the sense that it is very difficult to know who is a refugee and who is a migrant or an asylum seeker.”